Thomas Jefferson on a Free Press

As our president threats to “roll back” libel laws, questions the integrity of the press, warns that even Jefferson, Jackson, and Lincoln complained about the press, and suggests that he and he alone should be the source of our news, let us hark back – this is probably the first time The Curmudgeon has ever used the word “hark” and he’s getting a real kick out of it – to the words of one of our founding fathers and one of those the president cited, Thomas Jefferson.

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“Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.” (1786)

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” (1787)

“I am persuaded that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors, and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs through the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people.” (1787)

“No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter.” (1792)

“I am… for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.” (1799)

“The press [is] the only tocsin of a nation. [When it] is completely silenced… all means of a general effort [are] taken away.” (1802)

“The only security of all is in a free press.” (1823)



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  • By Ask a Silly Question… | The Four-Eyed Curmudgeon on November 14, 2018 at 2:03 am

    […] But the biggest loser is the constitution and its guarantee of a free press. That free press is the cornerstone of our democratic form of government, as Thomas Jefferson made clear in 1787 when he wrote that […]

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